Monday, March 22, 2010

My Little Surfer Girl

Man, I am so glad I bought copies of this book for work.

Butterfly Tattoo by Deirdre Knight made some waves around Romance Bloglandia when it was published in digital format back in 2009. The print version became available just last month, and garnered a very positive review in Publisher's Weekly. I was quite happy to see this review, because as the person in charge of buying adult fiction, that means I also am buying LGBT fiction. And let me tell you, quality B and T isn't exactly growing on trees.

Michael Warner is shell-shocked after the death of his partner, Dr. Alex Richardson. Alex was killed by a drunk driver, but their daughter, Andrea, who was also in the car, survived. The event has shattered their family. Not only is the man Michael shared his life with for the past 12 years gone, but Andrea has stopped calling him "Dad," and has refused to open up about the accident, even with the help of therapy. So imagine Michael's shock and joy when he discovers his 9-year-old daughter has finally opened up to somebody. And it just so happens the woman works on the same Hollywood studio lot that he does.

Rebecca O'Neill was an actress on a successful TV show when she was attacked by a crazed stalker. Miraculously she survived, but not without physical and emotional scars. She now acquires scripts for the studio, and it's when the power goes out in her office that she meets Michael. They are immediately attracted to each other, but Michael's grief, his strained relationship with Andrea, Rebecca's own baggage, not to mention Michael's sexual orientation for the last 12 years, make this a complicated potential relationship.

I'm a total sucker for romances that feature emotionally haunted characters. It's a tight-rope for the author to walk, but there is nothing quite so satisfying as reading about two damaged souls finding each other, falling in love, and moving beyond their pasts. That's exactly what we have here. Rebecca is still haunted by her attack, to the point where panic attacks still occur. Michael is still heavily grieving for the man he thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with. The added complication of his daughter's grief, only adds to his despair.

Michael's bisexuality is either going to work for readers, or it's not. There's really no middle ground here. The author emphasizes that Michael fell in love with Alex - not just "some guy." Likewise, Michael falls in love with Rebecca - not just "some woman." It's about being open to love the person, not the label that is attached to them. However, the fact that Michael was in a long-term, committed relationship with a man (and they were raising a child together), definitely adds another twist to the conflict. Can Michael not only get past his grief for Alex to love someone else, but can that someone else be a woman?

The author tells this story in alternating points of view, and while Michael's grief was particularly well-drawn, I gotta be honest - I pretty much wanted all Rebecca, most of the time. I was a bit more compelled by her story of survival. How she managed to pick up the pieces after her attack, how it still haunted and colored her world. Also, the author introduces some added conflict surrounding Alex's twin sister that, I gotta be honest, didn't really float my boat. It seemed too "soap-opera-y" in comparison to the emotionally-intense, internal conflict that was driving the romantic storyline.

What ends up making this book for me is the latter half (for those of you who have read it - the Malibu scenes and beyond...) where Michael and Rebecca hit a crossroads. Can a relationship between them work? Is love enough? Does Michael truly love Rebecca, or does he merely appreciate all she has done to help his daughter? That's the rub, and it's what ultimately left me wrung out and limp from emotional exhaustion (but in a good way).

I'm glad I bought this book for work. Really glad. It's emotionally satisfying, heart-felt, and complex enough that it left me lingering on thoughts of what love is, how it is defined, and even if it can be defined. It's not a story that everybody will be open to, but it's one that needed to be told. Period.

Final Grade = B+


Lynette said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this book. I loved it as well. It's been awhile sine a story as pulled me in so completely on an emotional level. I really felt for the h/h.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

After reading this book, I finally understood the true meaning of loving someone, regardless of sexual preference.

One of the must read books from last year.

And to think that Knight couldn't sell Butterfly Tattoo to the NYC Publishers. That is why epublishers are so important.

Kati said...

I just finished a re-read of this book, and my God it works for me on every level. Well...maybe a little more heat, but really heat probably would have distracted from the absolute beauty of this story.

It was in my Top 5 reads of last year, and I can already tell it's going to be one of my go-to re-reads each year. I just think that the slow healing of these two characters is so compelling.

Samanthadelayed said...

I have had this on my wish list for a while. I really just need to buy it already!

Lori said...

Loved this book. The OC is so lucky to have you buying fiction for them. Are you sure you don't want to move out by me and work in my county library?

Leah Braemel said...

I loved this book--I put it on my favorite reads of 2009. And bought the paperback even though I had the ebook because I loved it so much.

(by the way, I'm the flip to you--I would have been happy with an more of Michael's POV and less of Rebecca's. LOL, maybe it's a Team Jacob/Team Edward thing? though I loved both Michael AND Rebecca, the same can't be said for the J/E debate.)

*LMAO, the word verification is blesses*

Lyndee said...

Never read it, sounds intriguing, but I am so tempted to steal this cover and snark on that guy's back cleavage.

Seriously. He has boobage going on. On his back. Actually, it looks more like a butt.

Just sayin'.

Wendy said...

Lynette: It was definitely the emotional intensity of the internal conflict that drew me into the story the most.

Katie: That's the ultimate benefit of small publishers, I think. Picking up those stories that the Big Boys won't take a chance on. Where they see something they can't market, small presses see opportunity :)

Kati: I appreciated the fact that it wasn't a non-stop shagathonic fest. And agree with you, I don't think it would have easily fit into a story featuring these characters and the emotional baggage they were both lugging around.

Sam: Well it's out in print now - so you have two different formats to choose from!

Lori: I'm curious to see how it will circ. Hopefully well :)

Leah: I suspect I'm in the extreme minority when it comes to the POV - LOL. I even mused while I was reading it, "I want more Rebecca but I bet 99% of the other readers wanted more Michael."

Lyndee: I don't think you can easily tell from the computer screen, but it was the model's hair that mesmerized me. It...didn't look quite right. Sort of fluffy and peach-fuzzy. It distracted me from noticing the back cleavage!

Liza said...

I've heard great things about this book. Sounds like one I need to add to my TBR pile.

EB said...

I absolutely loved this book. Michael's grief is so palpable and that's what ultimately had me in tears as I read. (FYI read the book on my iPhone, but I did rec the print version to coworkers who don't read ebooks)

And as a fellow librarian, I'm so glad you are acquiring good LGBT books for your library! YAY!

(In a side note, thank you so much for posting about "What the Librarian Did" by Karina Bliss. There needs to be more librarian heroines:)

Leslie said...

Just got this one... from the library. :) What drew me was that Michael is bi and goes from having a male partner for so long to being attracted to a female. I'm curious to see how Knight makes that believable.

nath said...

Wow, you gave it a B+. I've seen the buzz for this book and I think I need to get it LOL :)

Tracy said...

I just loved this one - so glad you enjoyed it as well.

mountie9 said...

Beautiful Blogger award for you:

Kwana said...

I so have to read this book. Have to.

Wendy said...

Liza & Kwana: Well now you have another format to choose from :)

EB: I was so happy to see this book not only land in print, but also get reviewed in PW. Hopefully lots of libraries will pick it up!

Leslie: I think the PW review should help grease the wheels of getting this book in libraries. And I thought the author handled the bisexuality angle well.....

Nath: My reputation for being overly critical remains intact! Woot!

Tracy: I did like it, quite a bit. Still trying to decide if it flipped it my "re-read" switch or not though.....

Mountie: Thanks so much!

Holly said...

It's not a story that everybody will be open to, but it's one that needed to be told. Period.

EXACTLY! Well said, Wendy. Well said.

~ames~ said...

I loved this book. I've go back to reread it - I feel like it a punch to the gut when he flirts with that waiter at the restaurant. And yes, it is about the person you love, not the label. I'm glad you liked this!

Rosie said...

I bought this book just because of you. Was stunned when I read it and haven't read anything else like it. Well done and once again I owe you my thanks SL.

Wendy said...

Holly & Ames: I did like it quite a bit. I did find it a little slow early on (especially during the sister-in-law drama), but it really cooked for me from Malibu on.

Rosie: You are most welcome :-)